College interviews: starting well is half the battle

You can substantially improve your entire college interview—and really any interaction you have with someone you’re meeting for the first time—in the first five seconds. Just do two things.

1. Say hi, then say your name. Example, “Hi, [I’m] Kevin McMullin.”

The “I’m…” (or “My name is…”) is implied. Add that prefix if you feel more comfortable doing so. But there’s a subtle implication of confidence and maturity if you go with the just-the-name approach.

2. Simultaneously smile, look the person in the eye, and shake their hand.

First impressions matter. When you demonstrate—right away—to your college interviewer that you are a confident, self-assured, engaged teenager who’s comfortable interacting with an adult, they will immediately assume that this conversation will be a lot more enjoyable than so many of their other interviews with petrified teens who struggled to build a rapport or to contribute to a good conversation.

And even more importantly, you’ll be acting like a student who will engage with faculty and staff in pursuit of your goals while you’re in college.

Sure, you’ll need to do your part during the ensuing interaction to substantiate that first impression. But starting well is half the battle.